With comments left in the survey such as:
“There’s a lack of advanced features in Illustrator to create a chart…”
“The standard graph tool in Illustrator is too basic and needs an overhaul: it is not stable, not intuitive, and requires too much manual work.”
“Illustrator has cumbersome data binding and the data is not always displayed correctly”
“I’ve been known to cut up charts made using AI’s Graph tool and manually construct my own chart from there.”
… this pain point is another biggy.
And it doesn’t end there, some of our respondents pointed out even more limitations we had also been working on resolving such as:
line charts not accepting dates,
axis scaling and labelling problems,
key styling properties not available,
difficulties formatting charts to fit for print….
...you see the point, Illustrator’s standard graphing tool has limitations galore for those wishing to craft beautiful and functional dataviz.
All in all, not enough flexibility and too much pain-staking repetitive manual work has been the outcome.
In Datylon Graph the user has access to a range of specialized dataviz properties and features to style charts quickly and easily. One point to note here is that special effects are not supported. But then again, these effects are against the re-usability of the charts so are seldom used for advanced data visualization.
While Illustrator has a very limited set of properties per chart type, with Datylon Graph you’ll find many chart specific data visualization properties such as sorting, inner & outer padding, decimal separators, label position & rotation, spline type etc. next to standard graphic effects like stroke properties, shadow, font type.... the list goes on!
These styles are always applied to all designated element types in the chart, or even per series if needed. This generates considerable time gains while creating charts with no more manual drawing or editing.
Labels and the axises can also be styled separately using many different options including alignment, offset, grid options, text formatting options, etc.
And when resizing the chart, or even adding extra categories, the styling properties perfectly adapt to the new dimensions where they need to, where other properties like font size remain the same as they should. This makes Datylon Graph the perfect tool for repurposing charts.
Last but not least, rounding off our top three reported problems is the lack of more advanced and specialized chart and graph types available within Illustrator. And even for the charts that do exist within the standard Illustrator tool, the defaults are not deemed useful.
Data can be presented in many ways depending on the structure and the insights you want to communicate. A design tool should not be the limiting factor on how data is presented - dataviz professionals and designers need the freedom to choose between a large variety of fully customizable charts.
In the survey, respondents called for a larger range of chart types to visualize different datasets in the best possible way. The most wanted charts are Sankey, Treemap & Bubble charts. Closely followed by Alluvial, Dot & Scatterplot.
We believe that a comprehensive charting library is essential for the success of a good charting tool. Therefore, Datylon is gradually building a dedicated library of web-based chart templates for use within - you guessed it - Illustrator.
Besides the standard charts, we are developing many of the ‘most wanted’ charts listed above and more. We also strongly encourage our users to let us know what kind of charts they prefer us to develop and look forward to seeing them used in many different publications.
Alongside the insights relating to the challenges of vizzing in Illustrator, another matter of interest for us was the range of tools respondents use for data visualization, with many reporting that they're using 2-3 different tools. Unfortunately we don’t have more detail as to why such a range of tools is being used, but, possibly based on the challenges and limitations listed above, the fact that each of these tools needs to be used for one in the same job, we can only assume as the main reason why the range exists. We’re sensing the possibility for another survey so we can test this hypothesis ;-)
While creating work-arounds may very well be the reason for this multi-tool approach, using the likes of D3, R or even Excel to create the charts, then enriching later in Illustrator may be a viable workflow in certain cases - this scenario is far from ideal in the longterm.
Here at Datylon, our belief is that a consolidated dataviz design solution is needed, and what makes complete sense it to have that solution within the environment that all designers know already, Adobe Illustrator.